BUILDING BLACKBIRDS 

Having made my son a 1:72 scale version of the SR-71 some years ago, I've always thought that this is one of the most impressive planes ever and was very pleased when he bought me a 1:48 scale Testors SR-71 kit for Christmas 2008.

Being less impetuous than then, I began to research the construction of the kit before starting to build it and got more and more involved in the history of the Blackbirds and Blackbird modeling. At one stage I intended to make SIX versions but common sense and the high cost of importing kits from the US[1] has reduced this to three versions, (for the time being!)

 POSSIBLE VERSIONS 

Designation First flight date Number made Kit/s
A-12 1962 13[2] Testor's kit, #584 and Kiwi Resins, conversion kit[3].
This also allows the A-12 trainer to be built.
M-21[4] + D-21 1964 M-21, 2 M-21. The Kiwi Resins kit for the A-12 can be modified
to include a second cockpit.
D-21, 38[5] D-21. Wing's Models[6]
YF-12A 1963 3[7] Testor's kit, #588[8]
SR-71A 1964 32Testor's kit, #584
SR-71B 1964 2 Testor's kit, #584
SR-71C[9] 1964 1 Black Robinrezins, conversion kit for Testor's SR-71 kit, #584

You can see that, if you really went to town, you could make seven different versions or TEN if you include separate planes carrying the Coldwall, LASRE and Shaker vane equipment!

As with many kits, the Testor's details can be improved on and there are several replacements you can find in resin castings.

Ejection seats: Pavla Models, Czech Republic, S48012, available in UK.
True Details cockpit set with ejection seats, 48478
Wheels: True Details wheel set, 48100.

Cutting Edge did produce a set of super-detailed nozzles but these are no longer available but there were rumours that they might appear again towards the end of 2009.

 CONSTRUCTION DATA 

 EJECTION SEATS 

There is a set of colour photos of a variety of Blackbird ejections seats which cover the A-12, YF-12A and SR-71.

 COCKPIT DETAILS 

These are available from a variety of sites, just google. This link is for a detailed and labelled diagram for the SR-71.

 GENERAL INFORMATION 

A multitude of sources. Some of the best, (most succinct), are the Wapedia articles:-

The Blackbird Archive, has information on all the types.

 GENERAL PHOTOS 

A very wide range is available. The Blackbird image gallery has sets of images related to specific planes.

This link gives detailed coverage of the SR-71, including cockpit details.

Prime Portal has 'Walk-arounds' for several types giving more detail than you might want!

For the connoisseur of tail fin detail, there is the SR-71 Tail Art Image Collection.

 KIT CONSTRUCTION INFORMATION 

A number of modellers have posted details of reviews and the construction of 1:48 scale Blackbird kits.

 A-12 

 M-21 

 D-21 

 YF-12A 

 SR-71 

 'Titanium' paint mix 

Testor #584 Booklet, p.5 quotes the mix as "18 drops of Testor 1127 Orange in 1/4oz. Testor 1146 Chrome Silver". I converted this into into UK Humbrol colours as 34 drops of 18 Orange in a 14ml. can of 191 Chrome Silver. BUT - how big is a drop? I used drops from the end of a cocktail stick but, when painted on, there was no hint of an orange tinge, so a further 20 drops of orange were added which gave a faint hint of orange.

I then looked closely at other models and the actual planes and found a variety of colours!

A12 #6927 has quite a distinct orange shade on the bare metal whilst M-21 #6940 is slightly paler. However, the former photograph was taken in the open and the latter is in a hangar!

The various model photos also show wide variations. Toby Nelson's A-12 is much more orange than the photos and Don Fogal's version, which seems less orange than either of the actual photos.

I decided to try to match my colour the that of the photos of M-21, #6940 as that was the one I was building. The final mix used was a 14ml can of Humbrol Silver, 11, (I felt that Chrome Silver was too dark), with about 2ml. each of matt White, 34, and gloss Orange, 18.

NB the paint used on the tube of the Coldwall apparatus is an earlier mix than this as I decided that the colour of the photos is mainly due to the setting, (rising?), Sun.

 MY BUILDS 

My major problem in building these kits was that it was years, since I last assembled a plastic model. In this time I've built a house but that was little help!

The techniques, materials and expectations have greatly advanced since my last efforts. Filler putty was available but, so far as I was aware, there were no resin or photo-etch items.

The major decision was whether to remove the raised panel lines and scribe the parts. The Black Robinrezins conversion kits are scribed and they recommend scribing or, at least, removing the raised lines. The D-21, vacuum formed kit is also scribed.

My problem was that, after having read a number of articles on scribing, I was not happy with my ability to do this nor was I prepared to spend the money on the recommended equipment.

The initial decision was to start with the YF-12 and then try scribing it, starting in an unobtrusive area! Check the construction links below to see what actually happened.

 YF-12A 

Kit , Testor's #588

This is to be #60-6935 with NASA livery carrying the 'Coldwall' heat transfer experiment equipment.

 SR-71A 

Kit, Testors #584

This is to be #61-7974 which was an operational 71A and carried the Ichi Ban logo as well as the Habo mission symbols. It also carried the twin Gooney Bird pictures on the landing doors for a while. It crashed on 21/4/89 without loss of life.

 M-21 and D-21 

Kits, Testor's #584 with Kiwi Resins/Robinrezins A-12 conversion kit and the Wings Model's D-21 kit.

The M-21 is to be #60-6940 painted in titanium with matt black chines, etc.

I had originally intended to cut down an SR-71 kit for the M-21 as it appeared that the Kiwi Resins kit was unavailable. There is an account of this being done for a 1:72 scale kit which I used to plan the modifications, although I think only a single cut in the nose section would be needed. However, at the last minute I came across Black RobinRezins and imported the conversion kit.

I'm not certain at the planning stage of how to actually do this as the basic conversion is for the A-12 not the M-21. However, as the 'Titanium Goose' can also be built, it must be possible to keep the second cockpit.

These will be built last as they involve the most variation from the standard kit.

Unfortunately some of the following links are moribund. Both Kiwi Resins and Don's Model Works seem to have gone out of business.

[1] There seems to be no-one in the UK who sells Testor kits. Very occassionally a #584 comes up on eBay but often sells for more than the cost of importing it; including taxes!
[2] These included a single 2-seater trainer known as the 'Titanium Goose'.
[3] This was sold by Black Robinresinz, NZ. but they seem to have gone, (12/12/12).
N.B. Someone bought a Kiwi Resins version on eBay, (1/11/9), for £39 when the import would have cost £26 or £30 if VAT was charged!!
[4] You'll sometimes see this designated as 'M-12', M-21 is correct.
[5] More D-21A/Bs were built as these were later flown from B-52Hs
[6] Available from Don's Model Works, wings@donsmodelworks.com
[7] The YF-12A was a pre-production version of what was to have been the F-12B interceptor. There are references to a YF-12C but this was a fictitious designation for an early SR-71.
[8] This is now out of production but is occasionally offered on the net.
[9] This was cobbled together from the aft fuselage of YF-12A #60-6934 and the SR-71A static test model from Lockheed. It yawed at trans-sonic speed and was referred to as 'The Bastard'. Black Robinresinz have a conversion kit for this.